Does Exercise Really Boost Fertility? Here’s What You Need to Know
Fertility. It's a sensitive topic for many people, especially if you've had trouble conceiving. But you're not alone. 10% of women in the US alone (that's 6.1 million) have a hard time getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
If you're one of these women, first remember that your ability to conceive is not a moral assessment of your worth as a person. In fact, it may have nothing to do with you actually: roughly 50% of fertility issues are caused by male infertility.
Another thing to make clear before we dive into how exercise can boost your fertility: it can, but this does not mean it will.
As experts begin to understand more and more about fertility and conception, it's become clearer that there are more powers at play—and we don't have control over all of these powers.
Without getting too philosophical, when it comes to fertility (and really, life in general), we are more at the whims of the universe than we'd perhaps care to admit.
But that doesn't mean you have no control. Experts do agree that exercise can (and often does) improve fertility.
How Exercise Boosts Fertility
The role weight plays in fertility is fairly well known, but what hasn't been given as much attention in Western medicine is the role of exercise. Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that women who exercised at least 30 minutes per day were less likely to experience infertility as a result of ovulation disorders.
This said, studies have also found that women who exercise too much may also experience fertility issues. More than an hour of vigorous exercise a day may mess with your hormones enough that your ovaries don't function properly and begin to become under-active, not producing eggs and estrogen.
This is why doctors usually won't start looking to exercise as a means to help remedy infertility until after a year of trying (and failing) to conceive—especially if a woman has a healthy weight and menstruates normally.
What’s the Ideal Body Weight for Fertility?
There isn’t one.
In an article in Shape, fertility researcher and OBGYN Abbey Berenson, MD speaks to the ideal body weight for getting pregnant. "You don't have to be a size 6 to have a baby," she says. "This isn't about what looks good on a runway. It's about making your body healthy enough to carry a child."
For many women, the ideal weight to get pregnant is between 18.5 and 24.9 on the BMI scale. Studies show that 12% of infertility cases resulted from being under that range and 25% from being over it.
So, don't be too far under or over those BMI ranges. Is it really that simple?
Not really, because BMI doesn't account for muscle. Dr. Willian Schoolcraft, medical director and founder of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver says ovulation skinfold caliper tests are better indications of whether a woman is over or under that ideal threshold for fertility. Moreover, he said women with body fat percentages of up to 35% can have no trouble conceiving.
Jessie & Tammy, above, are two of our BodyRock Trainers who have 5 kids between them. Fitness and fertility can go hand in hand!
The Take Away: Moderation is Best
Exercise, but not too much. Combine higher intensity workouts and running on some days with walking, mobility training, yoga and stretching on others. We can help you with both. Score a free trial of BR+ now and get access to hundreds of HIIT workouts as well as mobility, yoga and other lower intensity classes.
Also, eat enough to support a healthy, flush body weight. If you have dreams of scoring a visible six-pack, they might have to wait. (But when you’re ready, you can grab our Get Sexy Abs ebook, right here, right now.)
Most of all, don't take this article as gospel. We're trying to paint a picture to show you how your exercise may be affecting your fertility, but remember your workouts may have nothing to do with your ability to conceive.
When in doubt, talk to your doctor, and remember that a balanced, happy medium seems to be the best place from which to try to nurture your fertility.